Sixers look to Rockets for hope

MCT Jarvis Varnado, James Anderson and Elliot Williams walk off the court after loss to Houston.
MCT Jarvis Varnado, James Anderson and Elliot Williams walk off the court after loss to Houston.
Posted: March 28, 2014

HOUSTON - Where the 76ers are right now is obvious; look no further for proof than last night's 26th consecutive loss, which tied the NBA record.

Where they want to go was almost as easy to see, also, in those Rockets, who won the game, 120-98. And one of the engineers of Houston's turnaround was Sam Hinkie, now the president and general manager of the Sixers.

Following three straight seasons without making the playoffs, the Rockets were able to land James Harden in a trade with Oklahoma City and sign him to 5-year contract. They then signed free agent Dwight Howard during this past offseason and are now a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.

"What they have here now is a culmination of a lot of work that took place in order to get them where they want to go," said Hinkie, who was the assistant in Houston to GM Daryl Morey. "I'm happy for them. They have two proven All-Stars, who were able to be gotten because of a ton of work hours put in to be able to be in the position to do what we did. That's what we're doing now in Philadelphia. We are putting in many, many hours and trying to do things that will get us to the position where we want to be. We took many, many risks that didn't work in Houston and we took many, many risks that did."

And the product of that work is a tough Houston team, led by Harden and Howard, that has sprinkled very good role players around their superstars.

"They followed a lot of what Sam is trying to do with us," said coach Brett Brown. "They tried to find ways to surround two All-Stars with players. They took it a step further where they've identified a style. They lead the NBA in getting to the free-throw line. They lead the NBA in three-point shots attempted. They've sprinkled length players around. People like Chandler Parsons is sort of like the modern-day player where he can catch and shoot a three and he can get to the rim and dunk it in a single dribble from a catch-go outside the NBA three line. So whether it's [Omri] Casspi or [Jordan] Hamilton, they're building something with a vision, and Sam is going to do the same thing. That's our plan, too."

In Harden, Brown sees one of the premier players in the league. He embodies everything Brown likes in a player and probably the kind he hopes to coach one day in a Sixers uniform.

"He is so hard to guard," Brown said. "He is arguably the most dangerous open-court player there is. Obviously, Kevin Durant and LeBron [James] are there among that elite category, but he is a runaway train. People don't realize how big of a man he is. For his size, when he's going at you 100 miles an hour with the ability to dunk, the ability to pull up and hit a three, his incredible ability to get to the free-throw line, it requires a team effort."

And so has the 26-game losing streak, by a team that is littered with sub-NBA talent. Though the plan was for this to be a rebuilding season, these depths couldn't have been foreseen.

"We just keep our eyes on the big picture," Hinkie said. "That is our focus."

Nunnally back

The Sixers signed James Nunnally to his second 10-day contract yesterday. In five games with the team going into last night, Nunnally averaged 2.2 points.

"I think that he deserves more time to be assessed," said Brett Brown of the 6-7 forward. "Ten days sometimes is not a fair world to live in. He has a skill set in regards to shooting. He plays with a poise and a pace that's interesting. He plays within himself and now slowly he's learning his teammates, he's learning the structure and we hope to give him more genuine opportunities to give him a realistic chance to sticking."

Brown is a fan of Nunnally's shooting, though he had made just four of his first 16 shots with the team, including only 2-for-8 from three-point range.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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